Access road

In my last post, “On the road again…”, I wrote about some ingredients that help me to deal with judgmental people such as courage, confidence, persistence, perseverance, and downright stubbornness. I thought of another essential ingredient that pulls it all together.  

I have a small window before I take my shower, wash and comb my daughter’s hair, and get us ready for work and school tomorrow, so of course, I will write (there really is not a window…ha!).  Let’s just hope that 3 hours doesn’t slip by which tends to happen when I’m on my blog.  I had an inkling that I was missing a key ingredient, but I couldn’t quite get it until I was at the grocery store.

It goes without saying that I love my mom with all of my heart. She loves me and has instilled in all of her children a work ethic that I think is rare nowadays.  She is beyond humble….humble times 22.  As much as I try to reason with her, challenge her, impart my stance on issues based on my life, mental health and social work experiences, she is going to hold onto to her deeply held beliefs. Those beliefs are based on her experiences as a woman who has learned English as a second language, was born on an island, grew up devastatingly poor, raised 4 children in the U.S. as a single parent, and retired as a janitorial staff member at a hospital. That is not all that she is, but my point here is that on some things, we will not see eye to eye. She may even find me as amusing as I find her. Seriously, it’s not always amusing. It has become apparent that I have my judgments as well. I do think it’s vital to seek understanding on opposing points of view, especially pertaining to the people that mean the most to you.

The other ingredient that I will add to my list is acceptance. I accept myself including my imperfections, which is difficult for a recovering perfectionist like me. I accept failure even though it’s painful. I accept love, joy, and abundance. I accept people for who they are, but I acknowledge that I’ve tried to change family members’ mindset to a degree. Ultimately, I’ve learned to accept that I will not win everyone over on my hot button issues,  even the most important people in my life. I am ok with that because my goal is to live in my truth, not any one else’s. 


On the road again…which road?

My mother does not approve of my work travel. She doesn’t understand how a wife and mother of 2 children can be away from her family for even 1 night.  One of my routine trips which I’ve made many times in 3 years is from Austin to Huntsville.  I recently returned from that trip the day before she arrived from Chicago last weekend. What my mom does not know is that traveling is my favorite part of work because it changes the work pace, allows me to meet new people or get re-acquainted with other colleagues, make new discoveries, visit new cities or revisit familiar ones, and provides me with some alone time that is definitely beneficial to my self-care.  I especially enjoy the drive to Huntsville, leaving before dawn, because I have the space to think about family, my personal life and work.  As mostly an introvert, I relish in the time alone with my thoughts.  I also use that time to seek clarity and guidance from God.

Speaking of roads, I’m thinking about the long, hard road of judgement I’ve endured throughout my whole life, particularly growing up.  Yes, I’m even surprising myself with how bleak this sounds as I type, but it’s the truth.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel…I promise.  I’ve mentioned before that I come from a very judgmental family and the judgement continues depending on the topic.  With my mom’s recent visit, I’m having some empathy for myself right now. What is it that has allowed me to live in my truth despite all of the judgement and disapproval over the years?

Some ingredients that I think are necessary for living in your own truth despite the naysayers (i.e., haters…although I don’t particularly prefer that term), including your family, are courage, confidence, persistence, perseverance, and downright stubbornness.  It takes great courage to stand up for yourself. Fear usually accompanies courage, so you’ll often have to act in spite of your fears.  When you realize that no one else will stand up for you like you, it becomes easier.  It might even make you angry, which is useful fuel in this case because it will push you to use your voice and make any necessary changes.

I believe that confidence comes from learning about, practicing, and believing in whatever your truth is. I’m also confident and have comfort in knowing that God is leading me to be the best that I can be and no one else can compete with God. I’m persistent and have great faith that things will work out as long as I stay the course.  I’ve seen some fruits of my persistence and faith, which simply encourages me to keep going.  If I ever feel like giving up, I think about how far I’ve come and what has come to fruition thus far.

Patience is important with perseverance because it can be a long road depending on who the naysayers are in your life and what power they have, or think they have, over you. You may be your own naysayer. There may be time-sucking roadblocks that you have to maneuver to get back on course. However, I like the challenge of sticking it out until the end, whatever/whenever the end is, and proving them wrong (you see my slightly competitive edge here). And true to my zodiac sign, I can be downright stubborn.  If I know something is true, especially as it pertains to my truth, then I’m going to hold my ground.  You don’t have to be a Taurus like me to be stubborn.  Just hold your ground on things pertaining to your own personal truth and things that you really believe and can back up.  At the end of the day, people will respect you for it.

There is the saying that “it’s about the journey not the destination”. One day, I hope to fully enjoy this road of self-discovery that I am on while I’m on it.  It’s taken me a great deal to get here, more than I’ve indicated in this post.  It doesn’t always feel like a smooth ride, but the signs I’ve seen indicate that it’s not meant to be smooth and easy.  I’ve at least gotten to a place where I’m appreciating the lessons and revelations along the way.






Pantry shopping

The picture is a snippet my pantry. It’s really not much bigger than that. I spent my Friday night reorganizing it and taking inventory since my mummy (my mom) is arriving from Chicago tomorrow. This might be boring to some, but it’s these seemingly mundane activities that make up life…at least my life. Social media may have you thinking that you need to be out taking selfies at some event or restaurant, but not me on this Friday night. I’m tired from my work travel and organizing helps me to relax.

My purpose was to make sure that I have food on hand that my mummy will eat and staples available so that I can easily prepare meals. I’m not one to let my pantry get low because I tend to collect items, especially when they are on sale.  In a previous blog post called “closet shopping” (I’ll come back and link later…I’m not sure how to do it on the mobile app), I mention my past excessive shopping because of an underlying fear of scarcity as a result of growing up poor. It isn’t just confined to clothes. This is a constant work in progress. It helps that we live in a small space because it controls how much stuff I can bring in. However, the baskets were spilling over (notice the Ramen noodles don’t have a home).

My mummy has certain dietary restrictions, so unlike other out-of-town guests, she’s not going to be interested in eating out. There is something for everybody in the pantry including the kittens. There is a range of items too like organic broths, specialized oils (sesame), quinoi, rice, beans, tuna, taco shells, sauces, oreo cookies, a variety of nuts, and Ramen noodles. My son likes these, but he sautés onions and peppers and adds red pepper flakes to make them tastier. Of course, he learned that from me. I like to think that I’m a pretty savvy cook. I tried to get him to use half of the salty MSG seasoning packet that comes with them, but to my chagrin, he uses the whole thing. I eat the healthiest, but I don’t force my prefences on my family. I used to get upset when they wouldn’t eat my healthy meals, and for the most part they usually do, but I also like to experiment, which they don’t always like.  I’ve tried to develop a thicker skin in this area when they reject a meal or don’t eat leftovers. I’m the one that’s over 40, hormonal, and need to watch what I eat, but I believe in balance so I’m not that strict. I eat healthy about 85-90% of the time. It also shows in my bloodwork because I got my lab results back recently. Now, my husband is 50 and I think he should be eating healthier, but let’s just say that I’m modeling the behavior that I would like for him to adopt. I do have limits on junk foods that I purchase though. For example, they know that I will not buy sodas.

My son and I tend to have similar tastes because we have broader palates whereas my husband and daughter have similar tastes in that they prefer foods without a lot of fuss. I’m attempting to avoid writing that they have more “simple” tastes, but essentially they do. They don’t like that much variety. With all the preferences, it’s difficult at times to determine what they might want to eat, even if I ask. I know its partially my fault because I used to be a short order cook (that is, in my house and not literally). Part of that had to do with my son’s food allergies, some of which he has outgrown.  Whatever the case, I’ve gone back to a hybrid of old school. I will cook a meal, and if they don’t like it, they can make a sandwich or something else. In old school, all we had was that meal, so we had no choice but to eat it if we didn’t want to starve. My husband and I are able to afford more than our parents, so I make sure we have well stocked groceries.

As I admired my pantry, I acknowledged that I am the only one who cares about it being organized. I do it because it makes me feel better, and in theory, helps us avoid wasting food. That doesn’t always work because sometimes my husband will just buy items when he doesn’t see them instead of asking me if we already have it. That really frustrates me. It would probably help if I labeled the baskets because you can’t see the items at the very bottom of the basket. Go figure that I haven’t gotten around to that in 3 or 4 years.

I’m short on time, and although I could easily spend hours writing a single post, I don’t have that type of time today.  There were other angles that I could have taken with this blog.  I will have to explore in future posts. I really just wanted to write and share my story, which is what I accomplished.


Confidence, humility and ego

This week will go down in the record book as a memorable work week. I was debating a bit on the adjective that best describes it, and “good” didn’t quite cut it.  It was “memorable” because I received such a wonderful compliment on Wednesday that it had me floating through Friday.  I’m hesitant to type that my week was “fabulous” or “fantastic” because the work highs come far less often than the lows and I don’t want to let it blindside me. In my work environment, I often have to balance confidence, humility and ego.

In last week’s post,  I mentioned a presentation I made that went over fairly well at a meeting with some very important people from agencies that are very important to my agency.  What I didn’t know, but was told on Wednesday, was that during my presentation, one of the very important attendees, sent a text to my director (WHAT!) indicating how thrilled he was with the information I was presenting.  Another executive director told my director that she was so proud of me because I presented the information in a way that the stakeholders, who were not as familiar with the topic, could understand and get this…on top of that, she was so proud of me because I am a social worker like her.  I say, “What!” That tidbit about getting those stakeholders to understand is important because they are decision makers that have a lot of influence.  The other tidbit about being a social worker put a smile on my heart.  I could end this blog right here, but as you’ve guessed, I will continue.  My director came over and shook my hand after telling me this.  I was beaming from ear to ear.

Although I work in public policy and not in direct practice, I am fortunate to work in an environment where mostly (but not entirely) counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists are leading the work of mental health public policy in my division. Creating systems change to ensure that resources are adequately and effectively delivered to citizens in entities such as state government is difficult, but we take a stab at it everyday.

I am privileged to work with some very smart, educated people who have no qualms about sharing their knowledge.  I’ve learned so much from them. However, on occasion, the “sharing” can feel downright, overbearing, self-righteous and egocentric. What I’ve learned is that I (you) can’t be intimidated when working with smart people (or perceived smart people or anybody else for that matter).  You have to use your voice.  I’ve definitely seen egos flying around the office, and let’s face it, we were hired because of our knowledge. Ironically for me, most of the staff, including myself, are identified as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs- yes, we have an acronym) and we are required to collaborate on a host of things to make decisions that affect citizens. However, having the type of negative attitude I noted above is off-putting and unproductive.  I believe there is a way to operate without resorting to that.

I sometimes find myself on this thin line of balancing confidence, humility and ego.  I lean towards the belief that the work (whether hard work or lack thereof) you do and the integrity you demonstrate will speak for itself.  I’ve since come to realize that in some environments, that is simply not enough. I value humility, have integrity, and don’t like to compete with people (only myself). However, sometimes, you do have to “toot your own horn” and give yourself credit, especially if you want to advance.  Despite what you think, directors, managers and/or your colleagues, may not even notice all that you’re doing.  Those who are in competition with you for advanced positions will usually not speak on your behalf.  What is at stake is higher pay and possibly more prestige, which most people want for themselves.

The reality of many agencies (I’ve worked at private, nonprofit and governmental agencies) is that higher positions are few and far between which causes workers to feel pressure to stand out, and possibly (and I’m not implying “likely”), do unethical things to advance.  When I describe work situations to my good friend who’s employed in the corporate world, she says it sounds pretty “cut throat”, and at times, she is right. I won’t even go into the politics either.  The professions that I mentioned above are all required to abide by a set of ethical standards, but they are not immune from this type of pressure. It’s the scarcity of resources factor that many learn about in social science classes like sociology that drives this behavior.  Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s an excuse to compromise integrity and behave badly.

I’ve managed to balance confidence and humility without compromise, while still being recognized for my work ethic.  At the end of the day, I had to hone in on using my voice to shine the spotlight on myself at times, so how did I do that?  I’ve spent some time thinking about my accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. My “thinking” includes journaling, planning, and visualizing where I see myself. I ensure that I have a thorough understanding of what I’m expected to know, which means I do research and study.  I read all the time and when I’m not reading for work, I’m reading for personal growth or leisure.  I usually practice speaking about myself before interviews, presentations or other venues, but I find that the more comfortable and familiar I’ve become in my current role, that I don’t need to do that so much before presentations and other meetings.  I strive to be authentic, which makes it more comfortable.  To this day, it is not natural for me to go into a soliloquy (slight exaggeration) on the highlights of my resume upon first meeting someone, so I have to work at it.   I know I’m not alone in this.  There are cultural, social, psychological, and other factors that come into play as well.

At the end of the day, I do think it’s possible to be both confident and humble. On one hand, I don’t want to come off as a “know it all” (with the attitude), but I want people to know that I am adept at doing what I do. Truth be told, I don’t ever want to think too highly of myself that I stop learning.  I view the people I know, who do think they know it all, as very sad.  They become stagnant and I worry about becoming stagnant.  And as much as I love compliments because it serves as validation to a degree, I don’t want compliments to fuel my motivation or cloud my thinking.  I want to be clear and grounded so that I can keep producing quality work.

I’m thankful that I’m starting to see some fruits from my labor and that I received some recognition for it.  I admit it feels great, but it doesn’t end here.

I hope that this information encourages you to discover new things about yourself and use your voice.






Say yes

Last week’s blog post was about learning to say “no”.  My focus this week will be on learning to say “yes” when you really want to say no. “Why the switch?”, you might be wondering.  I can best explain with a scenario that happened last week.  Now, I don’t discuss my current job much because as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how much I can divulge in this forum.  (I need to look into that soon.) I will say that I work in public mental health policy.  As such, a part of my many duties include making presentations to internal and external stakeholders.  I made a presentation last week about the proposed future of some of our projects to a group of stakeholders and it was well received.  What on earth does this have to do with saying “yes”? Well, my ability to say “yes” over and over again in situations that took me out of my comfort zone, landed me in my current professional position where I mostly operate out of my comfort zone.  Over the years, I have soaked in all of the uncomfortable experiences like a sponge, and as a result, have grown exponentially.

I am an introvert/extrovert (ambivert), leaning more toward introvert because I am best refueled in solitude and I constantly process internally.  I can also dance like nobody is watching in front of a crowd of people (Yes, I am also a licensed Zumba fitness instructor). Society nowadays values extroversion, especially in the business world, which is contrary to how a lot of people operate, including myself. I read a book by Susan Cain called Quiet and it blew my mind because it resonated with me so much.  You can see Susan Cain‘s Ted Talk here.  I also met her for a book signing at a behavioral health conference last year and she gave me some sound advice (that may be another post).

Growing up, I didn’t know what “introverted” meant, and apparently neither did my family or anybody else I knew, so I was labeled as “shy” or timid.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that being “shy” indicated that there was something wrong with me because I was different.  That was just one of my problems.  I really didn’t fit in anywhere, which gave me a huge complex.  I’ve never been a clique-type person either, but I did have friends (some may argue that my friends were my clique).  I see all of this now as a gift, even though it didn’t feel that way for years, especially considering that people like to point out how different you are.  In a lot of ways, I was defiant too and liked being different, but it took some time to develop the courage to own my uniqueness and to own it without guilt.  I often pretended like it didn’t bother me that I didn’t fit in, but I knew the truth.

I think that not fitting in put me on a path to be able to do the internal, self-examining, work to figure out who I was without relying on other people’s opinion. I read an article today of a lady writing in asking for advise on a topic and she indicated that she was concerned about what her mother, her sisters and friends would think. That’s an example of something that I would not have a problem with because I listen to my inner voice, pray, do what’s best for me, and if I so choose, may share my decision with others later (unless it involves or impacts my husband and our children, in which case I consult with my husband).

I have developed the courage over time to say “yes” to trying things that take me out of my comfort zone.  Earlier on, starting with my family, I said “yes” to standing up for my identity and setting my own path, which definitely did not feel comfortable, but I did it.  I later moved to a different state, completed my degrees, worked at different agencies, met new people, joined a different church, and tried new things. I also said “yes” to going after my dreams and testing my limits.

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised that the presentation was well received.  I was not overly concerned with how I would present because I knew that I would be professional and confident.  I was concerned about the content itself, how I would convey the work that was done over the years, and how I would manage the backlash, if any.  I had support in the room in case I needed backup and they chimed in minimally.  The beauty of the whole thing is that all of the “yeses” I made in the past for my own betterment led me to that experience.  And don’t get me wrong, that experience was not the pinnacle of all experiences.  I will be facilitating more stakeholder meetings very soon, and for all I know, people may run out of the room screaming “bloody murder”. I am simply acknowledging what it took me to get to this place and know that I have the tools to manage different situations.

It does not feel good to make mistakes, but that’s how you grow, especially if you take the time to learn from them.  Believe me, I’ve made many, but you really don’t know what you’re made of until you get out there.  You have to do different things, hang around different types of people, and go to different places to grow. You have to pursue your dreams and goals. I hate it when Jillian Michaels says, in one of my workout DVDs, something to the effect of “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”.  That is not my natural inclination.  I love being comfortable in my own bed. In fact, when I have the blankets just right, I tell my husband that the bed has been transformed into “the cocoon” because it’s so comfortable.  As much as I love the warm, gooey, feeling of comfort, I really love how much richer my life has become because I’ve grown so much as a result of putting myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable.

So you now see that this week’s “yes” is a different vein from last week’s “no”, but I hope you find something you can use from each. It’s a balancing act for sure.